All play is based on letting your imagination run wild, slipping into various roles and exploring themes far removed from reality. Every toy has its own story. We might invent this story ourselves, perhaps using role plays or puppets. But it may equally have its roots in movies, TV series, books or other areas of play, such as video games. Storytelling still remains relevant today, as impressively demonstrated by the myriad licensed toys currently on the market.
We have to start by asking: why are licences so successful in the first place?
The answer is simple: children get to know the characters really well first and identify with them. While the licensing business often minimises how much toy manufacturers have to do by serving up ready-made play worlds, the licensing fees are obviously a factor as well. That is why some toy manufacturers create their own worlds with their own storylines and characters. Retailers should also keep an eye on these trends and take advantage where possible.
A world of its own, with lots of stories
The LEGO NINJAGO Movie - Trailer
Many well-known manufacturers now give their toys their own background stories. The Ninjago® series from LEGO is one very popular example of this. A TV series based on the toys created with production company WilFilm has proven very popular. The series was first broadcast by Cartoon Network in 2011. The action is set in the fictional world of Ninjago® and centres on six ninja – Jay, Kai, Zane, Cole, Nya and Lloyd. There have been six seasons to date and LEGO and WarnerBros have already lined up the next highlight: the LEGO Ninjago movie will make it to the big screen in September of this year.
With Ninjago®, LEGO has demonstrated how storytelling involving toys can boost business. Indeed, LEGO has had to tackle supply shortages due to enormous demand. Even a trading card game based on the toys has been produced, adding several facets to the play world.
Interactive story shaping
TV series are not the only way for manufacturers to tell a story. Apps can also be used to create imaginary worlds. Hasbro has developed just such an app for its StarLily product from its FurReal Friends range. Adventures can be brought to life on a smartphone or tablet screen, influenced by actions with the StarLily toy. This creates an interactive experience, effectively strengthening children’s attachment to StarLily.
Additional content is also available for the Bean Dolls from Patrick n friends. Besides apps for playful learning, very lovingly designed short video clips are also offered via YouTube. Lots of little accessories and games can also be purchased. All of these put Patrick and his friends in context, through which they become pleasant companions for children.
Classic storytelling on paper
This medium is very popular with PLAYMOBIL, which uses it to relate the adventures of its toy figures in short comics. These stories appear eight times a year in the PLAYMOBIL magazine, which can be subscribed to. Through these comics, children from four to seven years of age can cheer on their PLAYMOBIL heroes and get new ideas for their own playtimes.
Opportunities at the POS
Retailers can use the additional content provided by manufacturers to effectively attract attention at the POS. They should therefore try to keep up with current storylines, not only to structure their range for the specific toy accordingly, but also to generate cross-selling opportunities by using themes to showcase other related products. Large play worlds, related media content and merchandising products complement the classic toy products, helping to boost sales. Various play principles can be linked together to excite children’s imaginations.
Be the first to know what moves the toy industry! With the Spielwarenmesse® newsletter, you get the latest information on toy trends and innovations, best practice tips from experts as wells as updates on current toy market developments worldwide. Register now!